The topic of money always scares me. I find that I am always worrying about being broke, whether it be now or in the future. I think about student debt, how much money I am currently making with my job, how much money my future career will make me, and how much that will be in comparison to the cost of living. There are so many factors when it comes to money that the mere thought of it can be daunting and confusing. That is why the makers of the Catapult Plus program have set up a money management activity for all of us Plus kids to do. To wrap our head around the big and scary idea of money, so that we can build a foundation of budgeting now so that it doesn’t pose a problem in the future.
The money management activity was the scariest activity, for me, in my entire booklet. It was the one activity I was dreading most. In the back of my head, I always knew that I was bad with my spending, and now I had to actually find out how bad I really was. I had to take what I knew, which was that I was bad with my money, and make it concrete, by writing down on paper how much I actually spend. Once I began there were a few things I noticed: firstly, that I make way more money than I thought I did. Secondly, that more than half of my pay check was going towards my Europe trip savings. And thirdly, that budgeting is way easier than it looks. I thought I was going to have to spend an hour or more documenting every little thing, but with the help of my mom and my calculator, I was done in half an hour, tops. The mere fact of how time consuming the activity was was really refreshing and made money management way less scary in my eyes already.
Once I tallied everything up I became painstakingly aware of how much money I spend on food. I spend roughly $50 a week on food. That is lunches, some suppers at the food court in the mall when I’m on my break at work, and some quick nighttime treats from dairy queen and McDonalds with my friends. Those small things don’t seem like that much of a big deal when you are buying them there and then, but when you realize that you spend $200 a month on food alone, it makes you sick to your stomach. $200 a month. A month! I couldn’t believe it. If I completely stopped buying food anywhere, give a few snacks for those moments I am really famished, I could have a decent car in a year. A car. Once again, unbelievable.
And I think that food is definitely one of the biggest culprits for student’s spending money. When it’s lunch at school you are with all of your friends, you can all drive, you are in driving distance of tons of fast food places (pizza, McDonald’s, Wendy’s, I mean… hello?! Yum!!) and none of your friends have budgeted their money, so they don’t really care where they go or how much they spend. When you are surrounded by such a strong drive to buy food it is so hard not to give in. But after I did money management I noticed how a burger every day for lunch is totally not worth a car. So, I changed a few things.
Now I try to make my lunch at least once a week, and I also take advantage of the cheap and free meals I can get any time. On Tuesdays right down the street from my school the Superstore gives out a hearty amount of taters and chicken for only $2 and on Thursdays at the church two buildings down from my school I can get a free helping of KD for all of the students that leaves me full afterwards. It is these small changes that still give me the luxury of eating out with my friends, but also makes me save that much more at the end of the day.
And I think that is the big picture here. Saving just that much more. I thought that money management was going to make me change huge things in my spending that would effect my day to day life. I pictured myself sad and having no freedom with my money, but I noticed that it isn’t hard to change at all. Once you write it down you are suddenly and completely in control of every transaction coming in and out of your bank account. I no longer have to worry about looking to see what my balance is or counting up how much I have spent on lunches this week. From money management you have a rough idea of how much you allow yourself to spend on certain things each week, and you feel way better and way less stressed. And whether you spend too much money on food, like me, or other things like clothing or the movies, from actually sitting down and looking at where all of your money goes, you can save tens of dollars a week by making small changes that don’t really affect your day-to-day life in the long run at all. You become a student who is in control, and has the tools to be in control of your money until the day you die. And that is something not everyone can say. That is something really life changing and really cool.
Lauren, Catapult 2014